Summary: Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance follows Maizy and her mother who return to Last Chance, Minnesota when Maizy’s grandfather becomes ill. We learn that Maizy’s mom had her with the help of a sperm donor and seems to have taken a less traditional, unexpected career route since her parents expected her to take over their historical Chinese restaurant The Golden Palace.
However, Maizy’s grandparents love her, and Maizy quickly bonds with them, especially her grandfather. One day, she sees pictures of several Chinese young men and when she asks her grandfather about them, he begins to tell her a sprawling story about their family’s history in Last Chance, which is interwoven with love, racism, and community. At the same time, The Golden Palace experiences a hate crime and Maizy is shocked to discover who the perpetrator is.
I really liked this one. It starts off a bit slow but I was quickly immersed in Maizy’s world and in Last Chance and its small-town vibes. Her grandparents are so sweet and I liked watching them repair their relationship with their daughter and build a strong one with Maizy. They also have a sweet love story and I’m all for elderly people in love.
Maizy’s grandfather shares a story with her about his great-grandfather, Lucky, the first man in their family to move from China to the United States. So, this has a story within a story, much like Ellen Ho’s Finding Junie Kim. I definitely enjoyed this more than the latter and although Lucky experiences a lot of racial prejudice, which can be hard to read about, the story manages to be just as engaging as Maizy’s story in the present.
The Golden Palace experiences a hate crime and the family has to band together with their community to find out who is responsible (with Maizy leading the charge). I loved the suspense and the reveal, as well as the resolution of that narrative arc.
Overall: Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance is a spellbinding middle grade book about one Chinese family’s heritage and the granddaughter who ties it all together. This book highlights the challenges that Chinese people have faced while immigrating to the US. It also shows how immigrants can find family among themselves and in their communities. Maizy Chen’s Last Chance also depicts a protagonist whose father was a sperm donor, like Nikki in Nikki on the Line. Some kids with unique family situations may appreciate this detail. I loved this one and I always enjoy Lisa Yee’s storytelling. This is a must-read.